TCS Daily

A Crisis of Process

By James Pinkerton - March 17, 2006 12:00 AM

Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series.

We are in a Crisis of Process. OK, I have written more exciting lead sentences than that — everybody has. However, I will keep those words as they are, because they make an important, even life-saving point.

I will argue, in this two-part series, that problems of process inside the federal government are threatening not only our national well-being, but also our national security. And I will offer some solutions put forth by Bob Walker, who capped his 10 terms in Congress as chairman of the House Science Committee and member of the Republican Leadership in the historic 104th Congress.

Both of us will remind conservatives and free-marketeers, who like to affect a nonchalant disdain of government — even when they are running the government — of the following reality: Nobody makes you run for elective office. But if you want to hold high office, then you have to take that office seriously. If you are in the government, you have to govern. And that means, either make the existing system work, or else bring forth a better system. What you can't do is pretend that it's someone else's problem. The buck stops with you.

Yes, the topic of process is boring to many, but the consequences that flow from the failure of process are not boring at all. For example, if the once-obscure and back-burner-ish Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) fails at Hurricane Katrina relief, because it's tangled up in turf issues inside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — well, that's a front-burner, front-page issue.

Similarly, if the even duller-sounding Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) undoes the Dubai Ports World deal — that makes for an even hotter potato.

Six months after Katrina, nobody will argue that FEMA handled the storm well. The only question is: who, what, and who else is to blame?

As for CFIUS and Dubai, there had been plenty of good arguments to be made on behalf of that now-derailed deal, but the process was so badly handled that there was no chance for advocates to make those arguments. That is, if top officials — including the President, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Homeland Security — all found out about the decision after it was made, then by definition there was no possibility of a coordinated communications strategy for presenting the deal's merits to the American people. Apparently, the highest-ranking official involved in the CFIUS process was Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, who has been known in the past to be inattentive to the politics-of-process sensitivities, as in his failure to spot the vulnerabilities of Dan Quayle back in 1988.

In a Dubai-deal post-mortem on the March 12 edition of "Fox News Sunday," Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, dismissed the CFIUS examination of the Dubai deal as "superficial"; on the same show, Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN), Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, declared bluntly that President George W. Bush had been "ill-served by an antiquated process."

Being ill-served on process means being ill-served on policy, and on politics. As Bush's declining poll numbers demonstrate, the American people expect their leaders to do a good job — on all aspects of the job.

Other process-problems are likely to loom large, too, as we head toward midterm and presidential elections. Let's consider education; at the federal level, that's a process-issue. That is, Uncle Sam can't actually run the schools, but the feds can set in place a system of carrots and sticks to make sure that kids get the education they need — and America gets the competitive workforce it needs.

Some might question whether that's a proper role for Washington to play, but in practical terms the argument was settled a quarter-century ago, when President Ronald Reagan declared that we were "a nation at risk" because of faulty education. The Gipper's own education task force included the famous sentence, "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war." If the stakes were that high — and are that high today — then no presidential hopeful, in either party, can afford to disregard education. No wonder, then, that in 1988, George H.W. Bush campaigned as "the education president." Four years later, Bill Clinton campaigned as "the real education president." Most recently, in 2000, George W. Bush railed against the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and pledged a "no child left behind" education agenda.

Yet more than four years after the "No Child Left Behind Act" was signed into law, the improvements seem to be meager. A recent headline in The Washington Post reads, "Test Scores Move Little in Math, Reading/Improvement Appears Slight Since No Child Left Behind." OK, one might say, that's just the Post being its liberal Bush-bashing self. But plenty of responsible non-liberals say pretty much the same thing; in the carefully chosen words of Heritage Foundation analyst Dan Lips, "The jury is still out on whether No Child Left Behind is having a positive impact."

Meanwhile, many conservatives prefer to take the tack of denying that they have anything to do with the federal government — even when they run the federal government. Senator George Allen (R-VA) entering the Senate in 2001, as Bush was entering the White House, voted for "No Child Left Behind" in 2001, and has supported both of Bush's nominees to be Secretary of Education; in fact, Allen's overall support score for Bush stands at 96 percent, the third-highest for any Senator. Therefore it was a bit strange to see Allen trashing federal education policy to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis on Saturday: "We don't want to be dumbing down our [state] standards to federal levels and federal Department of Education bureaucrats in education."

If Allen feels that way, he should say so during his day job — that is, in Washington, as a U.S. Senator. More to the point, as he campaigns for the 2008 presidential nomination, however unofficially, he should talk in detail about how he would change the status quo. Is he for more privatization? Vouchers? The University of Phoenix? Installing Google in every student's head?

Once again it's worth noting: Engaging in the mental effort of thinking about process does not require devotion to the status quo of inputs; instead, it requires a devotion to improved outputs. And if improving outcomes means re-engineering the entire system, so be it. Allen and others should know that just dumping on the existing system won't accomplish anything — especially, after all, since Allen sits near the pinnacle of the current system.

Some conservatives will insist that the Republicans can win the presidency again, without paying much heed to domestic issues — other than, maybe, tax cuts and abortion. And that cynical calculus might hold true; so long as "macro" issues such as national security and the overall state of the economy are favoring the GOP, perhaps it doesn't matter too much, at least at the presidential level, if the party is seen as neglectful of education, health care, and so on. (Getting elected to lesser office, of course, such as governor or mayor, is a different story.)

But if that's the case — if Republicans seeking the White House can win by focusing only on macro issues — well, then, it behooves GOPers to get those macro issues right. So let's return to our first two examples of failed process: Katrina and Dubai. Both process-failures fall under the general umbrella of national security and homeland security. If Republicans are truly going to be the protective "daddy party", then they'd better be no-nonsense about getting their security act together.

Here's where a book published last year, Running The World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power, might be helpful. Author David Rothkopf is an alumnus of Bill Clinton's sub-Cabinet, although he is no lily-livered liberal. He describes himself as a "centrist Democrat" with a strong pro-globalization streak. Having worked in international issues at the Department of Commerce, Rothkopf later worked in the private sector for two former national security advisers, Republican Henry Kissinger and Democrat Anthony Lake; he has a solid enough understanding of how decisions get made, and why they succeed — or fail. And Running The World is a 554-page paean to the importance of process. It is basically a history of the National Security Council (NSC) and its operations, particularly emphasizing the first-hand recollections of key players over the last two decades.

As Rothkopf writes, ready or not, NSC-ers "find themselves in charge of the realities of leading the world." So he has written this book, in part, to help future NSC-ers prepare themselves for their daunting mission. Even those who disagree with Rothkopf's Clintonian vision history will find that the book makes a contribution to NSC-ology, to an understanding of NSC process.

Interestingly, the NSC has little institutional structure. Although it exists by statute — it was created by the National Security Act of 1947, which also created the Department of Defense and the Directorate of Central Intelligence — the NSC has virtually no permanent staff, and has never had a large staff, at least compared to other agencies. Yet the NSC succeeds, when it succeeds, when it pulls together useful information and advice to help the President make wise choices. That's the key issue, according to Rothkopf: Can the NSC coordinate an orderly and timely decision-making process?

<>But as we have seen, national security now means homeland security. And a look back at Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, reminds us that the national-homeland security nexus is still grievously inadequate. Katrina was a natural disaster, but it was fraught with national-security implications; the response was overseen (or not) by DHS, the same outfit that would have led the response to a mega-terrorist attack. Using Clausewitzian terminology, many who were at FEMA and DHS at the time have said the Katrina response suffered from "the fog of war" — or the "fog of bureaucracy".

Even the President, using a term straight from contemporary Pentagon-ese, told ABC News last month that the White House lacked "situational awareness" of the Katrina situation. That's a failure of process, the process of keeping the Commander-in-Chief fully informed, at the intersection where national security meets domestic tranquility — an intersection we are undoubtedly going to be visiting many times in the future.

So what to do? If the federal government is responsible for natural, as well as unnatural, disasters, then the federal government needs to improve its process. It needs a better standard operating procedure. Here Rothkopf has some suggestions. Reflecting the Clintonish view that foreign policy is mostly an extension of domestic policy ("it's the economy, stupid"), Rothkopf pauses from his history of the NSC to argue for a strong NEC — a National Economic Council — such as existed during the Clinton years.

As the name suggests, the NEC is the economic equivalent of the NSC; Rothkopf quotes the 42nd president saying that the NEC was intended to "operate in much the same way the National Security Council did, bringing all the relevant agencies together to formulate and implement policy." The result was an NEC that was "successful and productive," especially under Robert Rubin in 1993-4. And in fact, whether one likes it or not, the Clinton-Rubin team accomplished much — from raising taxes to securing Congressional acquiescence to two huge agreements, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Of course, many will insist that some of the Clinton-Rubin economic policies — the tax increase and the "Hillary-care" proposal come to mind — were counterproductive, and that the Clinton administration was saved from the economic shoals only by the push of the Gingrich-ized Republican Congress and the pull of the Internet. Which is a reminder: Effective process is a necessary, although not necessarily sufficient, condition for overall success.

And while Rothkopf's advocacy of a rigorous NSC-like process for domestic issues is basically sound, most non-Clintonians will probably reject his claim that "the biggest national security threats to the United States are domestic." When I heard him say that at a luncheon here in Washington, I asked him to repeat those words, so that I could be sure of what he said — and he did so, happily.

His argument is that the key variables for a country's well-being are the strength and dynamism of the economy and society, which of necessity must support any foreign policy or national security strategy. To which some might respond that if one defines "national security" too loosely, then anything can become an urgent "national security" issue, from fiscal policy to education; Vice President Al Gore even claimed that AIDS in Africa was a national security threat. Yet when national security means everything, national security policy means nothing. So part of the process is narrowing the process; not everything can be included.

Still, Republicans, with their more threat-oriented view of national security, face the challenge of helping Bush out of his current slump in the polls, as well as helping the GOP develop a more robust vision of problem-solving. That is, Republicans need to figure out how to deal more effectively with such process-failures as Katrina, Dubai — and, yes, even education. Come to think of it, all Americans, regardless of party, have a stake in those concerns. And they will certainly vote according to those concerns in coming elections.

For further perspective, I turned to G. Philip Hughes, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations, whose federal service included a 1989-90 stint as executive secretary of the NSC; he is also deeply familiar with domestic issues, having worked in the Commerce Department, not to mention his current position at the White House Writers Group.

I asked Hughes: "What lessons does the NSC model offer for domestic governance?" In his answer, he echoed Rothkopf's point about the value of centralized and coordinated policymaking. In addition, he recalled one particular strength that diplomatic and national security-oriented outfits have brought to the policymaking table: centuries of ingrained professionalism. For the military, he declared, "It's literally a matter of life or death whether you're properly organized, equipped, and led in order to 'take that hill'" — that tends to focus the mind. By contrast, the stakes for domestic policy have rarely been so high; as a result, domestic agencies have often been used as "political dumping grounds." But such lazy hazy ma~nana-thinking could be changing, he concluded, in the Age of Terror.

One shudders to think of it like this, but Hughes is on to something: Just as, say, the U.S. Army had no choice but to shape up after Bull Run or Kasserine Pass, so it might be that FEMA and DHS and other entities will be remembered as having gotten their act together some time in the early 21st century.

But that hasn't happened yet. And of course, there's still the rest of the federal government to make better.

How to make it happen will be the subject of part two of this series.

James Pinkerton is a fellow at the New America Foundation and a TCS contributing writer.


Crisis of Process
Points well taken and made, James.....But weren't you the one who blasted the Dubai Deal out of the water with innuendo, half-facts and rampant rumor? I would be the first to agree that our government -- at all levels-- is not serving us very well. But one of the reasons we're getting such a poor return on our government investment is a news media bent more on playing "Gottcha" than informing a electorate that needs to be properly informed if we are to govern ourselves well. And James, your own record here isn't without its blemishes. Like Pogo said, "We seen the enemy and it is us....."

A federal system of government was chosen for a reason. It is limited.
The federal government has assumed too much power.
A few years ago, corporattions thought they could do everything and car companies bought appliance companies and produced crappy cars and appliances.
Corporations now recognized they need to focus on their core business to be successful.
The military has also discovered this and sub-contracts many tasks so they can focus on thier primary task.
We the people have let Congress and the Executive branch usurp so much power they can barely accomplish the tasks required by the Constitution.
If we must have efficient government, let it be small.

"Crisis of Process" = Gross incompetence
Let's call a spade a spade. The only thing the Bush administration is good at is PR and personal attack.
I mean, you have a doctrine that government is always the problem, not the solution, and then you have a continuing series of live demonstrations of the fact. Dubai and Katrina are only part of the list: the new drug benefit remains a fiasco; Plan B is being blocked by extremist religious poltiical concerns. And how about the whole Iraq war: what there has gone the way we were told it would go?

Rewrite the lead
Since even the author is unhappy with the lead in clunker, maybe comments can do better. Here's my nomination for a replacement lead sentence:
Bad process can kill and we're currently facing a crisis of process.

Feel free to take and use.

Republican process
The government is almost entirely Republican. Since the K street project, this includes lobbying. If you have a beef with the process and want to fix it, throw de bums out.

I am troubled by the tide of Republican pundits who now are trying to support "good" Republicans, presumably the ones running for office and not under indictment, by trashing "bad" ones who, conveniently, are not. Besides Pinkerton, we have Brooks and Noonan on the same theme this week. The Republican machine survives on cash from people who directly benefit (business in regulatory relief, rich in tax cuts) and support from "social conservatives" who are just starting to realize that they are getting screwed. If Republicans ran on their core "values" (screw the old, the poor & the environment), they would lose.

Appointed Officials
Most appointed officials might be R, but the b'crats who run the show are probably mostly mixed or slanted to D.

Just wondering how many in the rank and file are really trying to row the boat in the same direction as the boss.

Personal Attack
"Like Nixon, Hillary is paranoid and has an enemies list.

"Like Nixon, Hillary has used FBI files against her enemies.

Like Nixon, Hillary believes that the ends justify the means.

Like Nixon, Hillary has a penchant for doing illegal things.

NRO: Would Hillary have had a political future if Kerry won? "

I guess they learned from the best.

Democrat Process
If the Ds had their act together they should sweep Congress in 06 and take the WH in 08.

But first they need an idea.

Hillary didn't blow the Katrina response, didn't plan the war, didn't have process of "process." Regarding your list, you shoujld be aware that most of it is either fiction, or concerns matters that were investigated thoroughly without finding wrongdoing.

Democrat Process
They have an idea, in deed, they have several: Everything Bush does is wrong! Everything the U.S. does is bad for the planet! Capitalism is evil and hurts everyone but the capitalists! America would be a wonderful place except for all those nasty Americans wandering about. If we could just replace them with Frenchmen, we'd be in Paradise.

Who says they don't have an idea?

Yep, its settled

I guess the R learned how to delay as well.

If you are really serious about Katrina, you will have to acknowledge the primary responsiblity belongs to the Mayor and Governor. We still have a federal system. But of course, liberals want to turn over all authority to the state.

As far as Iraq, it is going pretty well. The strategic goal of countering Iran without nuking them seems to be working. THAT was the reason that should have been given to finish the Iraq war.

masters & subjects
"But if you want to hold high office, then you have to take that office seriously. If you are in the government, you have to govern."

Daniel Webster saw through this line of thought when he said "...There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."

And Bertrand de Jouvenel neatly characterized the false notion of a modern benign process:

"From the twelfth to the eighteenth century governmental authority grew continuously. The process was understood by all who saw it happening; it stirred them into incessant protest and to violent reaction. In later times its growth has continued at an accelerated pace, and its extension has brought a corresponding extension of war. And now we no longer understand the process, we no longer protest, we no longer react. The quiescence of ours is a new thing, for which Power has to thank the smoke-screen in which it has wrapped itself. Formerly it could be seen, manifest in the person of the king, who did not disclaim being the master he was, and in whom human passions were discernible. Now, masked in anonymity, it claims to have no existence of its own, and to be but the impersonal and passionless instrument of the general will. But that is clearly a fiction…. Today as always Power is in the hands of a group of men who control the power house…. All that has changed is that it has now been made easy for the ruled to change the personnel of the leading wielders of Power. Viewed from one angle, this weakens Power, because the wills that control a society's life can, at the society's pleasure, be replaced by other wills, in which it feels more confidence. But, by opening the prospect of Power to all the ambitious talents, this arrangement makes the extension of Power much easier. Under the ancien régime, society's moving spirits, who had, as they knew, no chance of a share of Power, were quick to denounce its smallest encroachment. Now, on the other hand, when everyone is potentially a minister, no one is concerned to cut down an office to which he aspires one day himself, or to put sand in a machine which he means to use himself when his turn comes. Hence it is that there is in the political circles of a modern society a wide complicity in the extension of Power."

Bush didn't blow the Katrina response either. Nagin and Blanco did.
The process problem is greater than any one adminstration.

As to your claims of fiction, they exist only in your imagination. Which is where you get most of your so called facts.

Still peddling this tired bromide?
According to the liberal excuses machine.

All Republicans vote the way the president tells them to. Without exception.
Nobody counts the votes of Democrats, even when they threaten to use the fillibuster.

Insulting the French
Stop insulting the French.

Dream on

That's what the suit claims. However, the exhaustive investigation by Starr and his successor found no illegality. We'll see what develops.

>If you are really serious about Katrina....

Oh, please. PInkerton knows it was a FEMA-federal screwup. Even the House Republicans know it was a FEMA-federal screwup. Nobody - that's zero people -- are now officially defending the response. Sure, it was a local screwup too: that doesn't make it better.

>We still have a federal system. But of course, liberals want to turn over all authority to the stat

Taxapyers think if they're paying for a necessary service they should get their money's worth.

>As far as Iraq, it is going pretty well.
If you define "well" as simmering civl war with no plan for victory, sure.

for the rest -- dream on.

>Bush didn't blow the Katrina response either.

Maybe not Bush personally - i mean, he didn't say anything when he was being briefed that the hurricane was going to plaster the city -- but every investigation so far (and there have been several) give the adminstration grades between D and F.

Lessons Learned
The President has published a list of lessons learned and the federal governments plans to address this huricane season.
I haven't done a search but has the governor of LA and MS and has the mayor of New Orleans completed such a review of their response and their plans for the next 8 months?

The issue isn't "who else is incompetent?'

Dream on
They've given Nagin and Blanco D's and F's.

Since it wasn't Bush
it is very definitely relevant.

The issue is process.
Apparently the White House was not satisfied with the results of their efforts after Katrina.
They have reveiwed what went wrong and proposed changes for improvement.
It is interesting that three(?) major hurricanes swept over central FL in one year I believe, and there has not been the outcry as over Katrina. And the only outcry over Katrina is about New Orleans. What about MS?
Surely local officials did everything in their power in New Orleans to prevent disaster. After all, they had been warned for years this could happen. They were certainly prepared were they not?
The President is atempting to improve the process. What are the rest of the people in the paths of huricanes and tornados doing?

Energy for a Crisis
"Engaging in the mental effort of thinking about process does not require devotion to the status quo of inputs; instead, it requires a devotion to improved outputs. And if improving outcomes means re-engineering the entire system, so be it."

Very well said. In fact, the Pentagon is adopting just such an approach to re-engineer energy production and logistics.

Energy Conservation Moving Up Pentagon's Agenda
Defense Industry Daily, March 17, 2006

...a September 2005 Army Corps of Engineers Report entitled "Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations" in the House. Part of its conclusions section notes:

"One thing is certain: it is going to be challenging and comprehensive approaches to energy issues are required. UNCERTAINTY CANNOT BE AN EXCUSE FOR INACTION. Integrated resource planning is required and issues must be addressed from both the supply and demand viewpoint. The U.S. cannot drill its way to energy independence nor can we do it all with renewables and efficiency. A secure, reliable, and cost effective energy system must be robust, diverse, and aggressively incorporate renewables, energy efficiency, and intelligent use of fossil fuels.

The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close.... We must act now to develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to transition to other energy sources. Policy changes, leap ahead technology breakthroughs, cultural changes, and significant investment is requisite for this new energy future. TIME IS ESSENTIAL TO ENACT THESE CHANGES. THE PROCESS SHOULD BEGIN NOW.

Our best options for meeting future energy requirements are energy efficiency and renewable sources. Energy efficiency is the least expensive, most readily available, and environmentally friendly way to stretch our current energy supplies. This ensures that we get the most benefit from every Btu used. It involves optimizing operations and controls to minimize waste and infusing state of the art technology and techniques where appropriate. The POTENTIAL SAVINGS FOR THE ARMY IS ABOUT 30% OF CURRENT AND FUTURE CONSUMPTION. Energy efficiency measures usually pay for themselves over the life cycle of the application, even when only face value costs are considered."

No Subject
All good point, RSW, thanks. Jim P. is uncharacteristically flogging a dead (or at least, real sick) horse. All these "process" problems are a necessary part of democracy. It's messy, and as Churchill said it's the worst form of government, except for all the rest. I say it ain't pretty, but it's better than blood-feuds and civil war, or the law of the jungle, which are the alternatives. And it gets worse as the government gets bigger.

Is anyone really surprised that FEMA is inefficient and bungling? Does anyone really think it can be 'fixed'? Free citizens chose to live below sea level, behind inadequate dikes, in an area known for its violent hurricanes. In addition, they elected morons to be their state and local officials. As the kids say. Duh! When their luck ran out, their fellow citizens, instead of rightly chiding them for their stupidity, moved heaven and earth to come to their aid. In return, we get curses and insults from the "victims", who say the $100 billion of our money is not enuf to compensate them for their fecklessness. Jim you're barking up the wrong tree. The government creates these situation by taking our money to "help" people build foolishly. It's a national passtime.

Blown Response
Hillary didn't blow the Katrina response..

Quite frankly, that sentence creates some really ugly mental images.

Chocolatetown Nagin and Blanko did. Then again, you guys on the left don't believe in (or probably can't even imagine) the principle of subsidiarity.

to a question about Bush administration incompetence???
No, it's not. Saying local administrations are incompetent too doesn't change the bottom line, even if true, which is not clear they weren't.

Have you thought about??
Chganging your psuedonym to "LiberalCopymachine". You don't seem capable of produce text that isn't boilerplate DNC, taglines.

Try something original already, enough with the as nauseum stuff...

Still peddling this tired bromide?
But of course.. if your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail.

>Apparently the White House was not satisfied with the results of their efforts after Katrina.

not at the time: "Heckuva job, Brownie!"

>They have reveiwed what went wrong and proposed changes for improvement.

After everyone in the world noted that they totally messed up. D'uh

>It is interesting that three(?) major hurricanes swept over central FL in one year I believe, and there has not been the outcry as over Katrina. And the only outcry over Katrina is about New Orleans.

There are lots of complaints. The reason NoLA is complaing loudest is because they were damaged most.

>Surely local officials did everything in their power in New Orleans to prevent disaster. After all, they had been warned for years this could happen. They were certainly prepared were they not?

They were saying the Corps of Engineers hadn't reinforced the levees enough. Were they wrong/

>The President is atempting to improve the process. What are the rest of the people in the paths of huricanes and tornados doing?

Trying to repair the damage caused by his mistakes.

Wrong so far
"Tensions eased after an Iraqi brigade commander, a Shiite, rolled his armored vehicles into the Sunni stronghold of Tarmiya and told local imams that his men would protect their mosques against Shiite attacks -- and that in return, they must control Sunni militants. "He laid down the law," remembers Col. Jim Pasquarette, who commands U.S. forces in the area. The crisis gradually eased there, with U.S. forces mostly remaining in the background."

"Sure, it was a local screwup too: that doesn't make it better."

So you prefer a larger federal government to protect you from every risk?
The ultimate responsibilty for New Orleans belongs to the people and government of N.O. If they can't handle it, there is the Gov. and then the FEDs. That is the fenderal system.
So you would prefer all police and firefighters and rescue personnel should all work for H.S.D.? Boy, I feel safer already.
FEMA seemed to get things done prior to Katrina. If they were all such foulups, I guess they just got lucky in FL?

but Fema performed perfectly.
I'm perfectly willing to admit screwups by local authorities. Is there some reason why you guys can't see any problem in the federal response, even though everyone else who has looked at it sees a fiasco?

dream on

you mean in his brother's state? They screwed up there too.

So what??
1. no, as a matter of fact.
2. the idea was the bush admin was better. IN fact, it was worse

In addition
In addition, they trusted the US government to design the levees and their local, ethical, contractors to build them.
But, hey, the party must go on.

Not everyone
You aren't "perfectly willing to admit screwups by local authorities", because you reserve none of your copius venom for them.

On the other hand, its your "side" that believes government is omnicompetent and can remedy any ill deus ex machina. Any thoughtful person looks at the government and realizes that outside of the military- which is effective, but not necessarily efficient-government is intrinsically about routine and procedure-and antithetically opposed to swift response. You keep running a toortoise in the Kentucy Derby, you'll keep bitching about your horse being a nag.

Oh I'm Sorry
I missed the part where Mr. Bush was in office when the levees were designed and built.

>Any thoughtful person looks at the government and realizes that outside of the military- which is effective, but not necessarily efficient-government is intrinsically about routine and procedure-and antithetically opposed to swift response

So: we don't expect our military to be able to do anything quickly?

The idea is we think that anyone who is going to attack us will give us lots of notice so the military can get ready. Ideally, the attackers should tell us how on thi s model, so we an get it right.

Are you sure?

local authorities

>You aren't "perfectly willing to admit screwups by local authorities", because you reserve none of your copius venom for them.

they aren't the subject of Pinkerton's essay. Their performance isn't an issue.

What makes you think the federal government should be responsible for disaster relief if it is so incompetent?

effective = quickly?
"So: we don't expect our military to be able to do anything quickly? "

It was said the military was effective, but not always efficient. Nothing I saw about quickly.

And we do have units ready to respond in minutes to an attack.

"According to a Washington Post report on Sunday, September 4, "Shortly before midnight Friday [September 2], the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans." Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request, and doubted that it would provide better management of the crisis."

"A new independent investigation was announced by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on October 19. This will be under the direction of the National Academy of Sciences and will study the results provided by two existing teams of experts already probing the failures, and will issue a final report in 8 months time."

Now we will find out what really happened. The NAS is on the case.

Another Partisan perspective on Katrina
"What is the real story of Katrina is (I suggest) not so much that nature wrought fury on land, water, people, property, and animals, not at all anything about racism, not much about federal government incompetence. The real story is that the mainstream media rioted."

No unifying principles...
"The authors conclude that the Democrats' big tent is crammed with special interest groups is because the party has no unifying principles or goals. Moulitsas and Armstrong declare, "It is difficult to overstate the need for the Democratic Party to develop its own ideas, not just argue against the Republican ones."

"It may come as a surprise to many that the federal government does not have broad police power to impose quarantines, a responsibility constitutionally vested in the states. The disarray among local, state, and federal agencies in the wake of Katrina vividly demonstrated the constraints on cooperation and coordination following a catastrophic event. If a regional outbreak, for want of cooperation among government agencies, were to spiral out of control, the deadly virus could spread nationwide."

I can see the ACLU howl now when the federal government attempts to restrict travel from , pick a city.

democratic ideas
Democrats don't speak with one voice, but here are some things I would expect of a Democratic president, if he or she is as good as Bill Clinton:

Balance the budget by cutting excess military spending and pork and raising taxes to the level of spending the people actually want.

Protect the environment

Join Kyoto

Build international alliances and a foreign policy of consensus.

Now ... you might call these democratic tag lines, & they are. However, it's timesom to hear over and over that Democrats don't stand for anything.

Did Katrina only damage New Orleans?
I find it interesting that eveyone is concentrating on the screw-up of the Federal Government in its response to the damage Katrin did to New Orleans. Why are you ignoring southern Mississippi? Hurricane Katrina did tremendous damage to a huge area of land in the gulf states. Individuals, churchs, private organizations, as well as state and local governments in both Mississippi and Florida joined with the federal agencies to coordinate the recovery and the result has been fantastic. Power was quickly restored, homes are being re-built, and businesses are open again. Perhaps the problem in New Orleans is caused more by a lack of cooperation than by an ineffective Federal government.

The People of Mississippi and Florida did not sit on their collective butts and wait for the federal government to save them. They took the initiative and began their own recovery efforts. FEMA and the other federal agencies have helped, but no one asked or expected them to do everything.

Perhaps the Federal government would become more efficient and smaller if people stopped looking to it to solve every problem and began trying to be a little more self-reliant.

What about the word "emergency" don't you understand?
It's the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Does that bring up, in your mind, a body that's going to get there sooner or later?

Police and Fire are also government agencies. Is the idea that they do all the paperwork before responding to a call.

I think your preconceptions about the abstraction "government" are blinding you to the actual facts of the matter.

Regarding the NAS: so we're going to have scientists look into it, and you believe that's a bad thing???

It's not "the federal government" it's this administration
FEMA's performed superbly in the past many times in the past, in previous administrations. But if you put a political hack in charge and then confuse the lines of command, you're going to get problems.

Your using "government" as a get-out-of-jail free card for any mistake the Bush administation makes. It's never their fault, it's something abstract in the nature of government.

a little matter of levees.
As a matter of fact, complaints about response to Katrina & Rita, abounded in Mississippi & Texas, where Rita hit. Power wasn't back on for weeks in most of Rita's wake. But the disjunct is Louisiana had huge chunks of a major American city completely destroyed because of levves breaking.

Let's see how many candidates run on that platform.

Local Government
Who will respond to a fire at your house?

A LOCAL volunteer or LOCAL government fire department.

Do you believe a Homeland Security Fire Department would do a better job?

FEMA is not a first responding agency and I don't believe most local governments, remember those: cities, counties, states, want federal authorities to take over.

As far as NAS goes, if it is an engineering issue, scientists are not the best poeple to investigate.

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